Abhishek G Bhaya
- No lyrics from a patriotic Bollywood song.
No fear mongering about a supposed infection that could become gangrene and eventually lead to amputation.
- No invocation of hyper-patriotism with references to soldiers defending the frontiers.
- And, no indictment before the actual court trial begins.
The interim bail order for Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya couldn’t stand more in contrast with the one in Kanhaiya Kumar’s case, despite all three facing almost identical charges of sedition.
Unlike Justice Pratibha Rani’s order in Kanhaiya’s case, Judge Reetesh Singh of the Patiala House Court does not resort to emotional demagoguery, but makes his observations on plain objective facts.
I had noted with shock the uncanny resemblance in the rhetorical language used by Delhi High Court’s Justice Pratibha Rani, in her order on Kanhaiya’s bail plea earlier this month, with those of RSS, BJP and their rightwing front organisations I had also argued that the senior High Court judge’s order is a model of what not to write in a judgment.
Classic example of a good judicial document
In that sense, the bail order by Patiala House Court’s Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh is a classic example of how a judicial document shall be written. My former senior colleague Prashant Tandon puts it very aptly in his Facebook post: “Here is a crash course for Justice Pratibha Rani offered by her junior colleague on how to write judgments without invoking Gangrene, Siachin and Filmi Songs.”
While Justice Rani begins her judgment with a few lines from popular ‘patriotic’ Bollywood song ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle’ from film Upkaar, Judge Singh sticks to the fundamentals by presenting his sole objective for the current hearing in the first para:
“By this common order, I shall decide the bail applications under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) of the applicants/accused Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid.”
Justice Rani makes a mockery of her order by frequently interspersing it with subjective and notional views on topics such as nationalism, patriotism, freedom of expression etc, which appear more like an emotional rant than based on solid facts.
Not once does she question the authenticity of the Zee News videos, which are the primary evidence on which Delhi Police has built its case.
In contrast, Judge Singh’s order is a textbook case of putting all the facts, evidences, arguments and counterarguments on record. While eventually granting the interim bail, he rightly makes the following observations:
“Although the allegations leveled against Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are per-se seditious in nature, but as claimed by the police themselves, the video footage of the incident has been sent to the forensic sciences laboratory. Its analysis and final report will certainly take some time.”
‘Innocent until proven guilty’
Kanhaiya, Anirban and Umar have all witnessed an unfair trial by a politically-motivated jingoistic section of the media and political adversaries. It is the fundamental nature of our judiciary that an accused is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
It is, therefore, critical for the courts to put the credentials and antecedents of those being tried on record to enable the delivery of an objective verdict.
While Justice Rani’s order lacks this vital element – she literally indicts Kanhaiya for nurturing ‘anti-national’ thoughts, which was technically not within her purview at this stage of the case when the trial is yet to begin – Judge Singh’s document isn’t found wanting on this front either.
He appears fair in his observation and committed to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ adage.
“Both the present accused [Anirban and Umar] are highly educated persons. They have graduated from premier colleges of Delhi University, completed their M.A. and M.Phil from JNU and are currently pursuing Ph.D programme from JNU. They have been residing in JNU for the past 5-6 years. Their credentials and family backgrounds as stated in their bail applications have not been contested by the State. No submission has been made to the effect that both the applicants Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya have been involved previously in any criminal case. No record has been placed by the State regarding any such past conduct of both these persons.”
‘Misleading the court’
Judge Reetesh Singh’s order also exposes the attempt of misleading the court by the Lead Additional Public Prosecutor who argued the case on behalf of the State and opposed granting bail to Umar and Anirban. It was suggested that there was no parity between this case and that of Kanhaiya as Umar and Anriban were the organisers of the 9 February ‘anti-national’ event.
However, Judge Singh makes the following observations:
“At the outset, it is to be kept in mind that co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar has been granted bail by the Hon’ble High Court…. Question arises as to whether the present accused can claim any parity with co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar who has been granted bail?”
“Even though it was submitted by the Ld. Addl. PP for the State that Kanhaiya Kumar was not involved in organising the event, from the contents of para 37 of the Status Report filed before the Hon’able High Court, it is apparent that the case set up by the police qua co-accused Kanhiya Kumar was also of organising as well as participating in the said event. The allegations qua the present accused are similar to the allegations made with respect to Kanhaiya Kumar in the Status Report submitted before the Hon’ble High Court during the consideration of his bail application.”
With this, Judge Reetesh Singh awards the bail to Omar and Anirban.
“When all the aforesaid circumstances are weight together, and keeping in view that no previous criminal record of any nature whatsoever has been alleged and the fact that nothing has been brought on record which could indicate that they are likely to abscond…, then besides the ground of parity vis-a-vis release of Kanhaiya Kumar on bail, I deem it appropriate to release both the accused on interim bail for a period of six months subject to them furnishing a personal bond in the sum of Rs 25,000 with one surety of the like amount.”
These concluding remarks from the Patiala House Court judge too stands in stark contrast to Justice Rani’s observations while granting bail to Kanhaiya. Suggesting that the bail is being given to retain him in the ‘mainstream’ (implying he has already digressed), she went on to make Kanhaiya’s release conditional on his not participating, actively or passively, in any activity which may be deemed ‘anti-national’.
After Justice Rani’s disastrous and biased bail order, Judge Singh’s document has brought some much-needed probity and objectivity in judicial conduct.
(The author is a Gulf-based journalist. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of JantaKaReporter)